coming into the mountains
Tuesday was one of the best days of my entire life. I went to Tiger Temple
(about 2 and
1/2 hours from Bangkok
near the Burma border.) I was very fortunate that the tour company did
not not have a minimum of 2 requirement but a driver picked me up at the
apartment at 5am. When we got to the town a tour guide named PanaLee
joined us. I had purchased the exclusive early morning tour that takes
place for a limited number before the Temple opens to the public at 1
PM. When we arrived there were only 2 other tourists there (a very nice
couple from the UK) and we had the whole place to ourselves. First we
had to take off our shoes and serve breakfast to the monks.
feeding the 3 to 6 month old cubs
Then we went
to where everyone has breakfast and we got to bottle feed the 3 to 6
month old cubs. We were told if there are more people
you sometimes have to share the cubs but we could feed as many as we
liked. Also had been told there were 6 cubs in the nursery who were only
a month old and they couldn't be handled and we probably would not get
to see them. However during this breakfast a keeper brought one out and
handed it to me to hold and take pics. What an experience! Next we
walked the 3 to 6 month olds back to the nursery for playtime and then
their baths. Playing with them in their pool and exercise area was just
likeplaying with dogs. The other
lady even said to me "you forget these are tigers" While there the month
old cubs were having their daily baths in a big dishpan.
this baby is only one month old
We then took
them and bathed and rinsed the bigger cubs and then gave them chicken
(cooked only) to eat from our hands.
Next came photos with big
tigers and then got to walk one (by myself!) on a leash to their
exercise and show area. More came for a total of 9 tigers there. The 3
of us were in a "cage"
during the show but as you can see from the pic the tiger boys were
playing with them and the cage was a not very high fenced in area.
Watching then splash and play in their canyon area was so cool. Even
these played like big dogs.
I was told if I want to I can stay there
as a volunteer from a week to a month and they provide housing and food.
After the Temple we went to an elephant camp.
Adorable babies there including one just a week old. I went on the ride
and since I was the only rider the mahout jumped off with my camera to
take pics and told me to get out of the seat and crawl up and ride on
its neck like he does.
walking to the play and exercise area
Fun but hard to hold on haha. He made the dorky
hat from leaves so felt I had to put it on : (
But I did feel sorry
for the elephants. I didn't see any being hit or abused Their areas were
clean and lots of food and the mahouts were taking them to the river
for baths.but still must be a dull life.
and I are holding a baby monkey in 2 of the photos whose mother was
killed recently by a dog. She wants to buy it but the guy who has it
wants to keep it.
Lunch was at a gorgeous place overlooking the
river. It was by the railroad of death from WWII
. After lunch we walked all along the
railroad and saw the cave that the Japanese used as a "hospital" for
POWs. I didnt go to the war museum but we did go to the Bridge On The
River Kwai altho it is not the original one.
So far I have not cared
much for Thailand
but this area in the mountains is just beautiful! PanaLee seemed more
like a friend than a tour guide. She has invited me to came back and she
will pick me up at the train station on her motorbike and we will ride
up in the mountains near the Burma border to see the waterfalls. I can't
wait to do that!
I know there is a lot of protesting circulating
that the tigers are abused and drugged. I wanted to see for myself and I
can say they are
not drugged and are very healthy and well cared for. A new area is
under construction where soon the tigers will no longer have to be caged
at night. (they do now because so many other animals also live on the
temple grounds.) The tigers actually are tame (as you can see by the
photos where I am walking one alone on a leash and petting it.
a cooked chicken treat after the bath
seen some photos where people are holding the big ones and they do
appear to be unconscious. This is why it is believed they are drugged
and I did wonder about this. Online and in their brochures the monks say
they are just tame and sleeping in the heat. I have to say I questioned
this but I saw proof that they are not drugged, Later we saw 2 small
leopards from the nearby big no cages zoo. They were being held for
photos and were very active playing with the people and each other.
After awhile they both started to nap. At this point PanaLee said Ok now
watch this. She picked one up and its head lolled to the
side and the feet hung limp and lifeless. She laid it back down and it
never woke up. However a short time later both leopards were wide awake
and playing again. I admit that I had to see this to believe it that
these tame jungle cats
can be asleep and not wake up when handled.
I discussed this alot with
several keepers at the Temple. They say that the way they handle all the
bad stuff circulating is just to let the tourists who come spread the
word by mouth what Tiger Temple is really like. I can't say enough about
what a fantastic place it is and I am so glad I got to see it
especially in this off season and practically having it all to myself.
But off season or not there are many tourists in the are and as we drove
away the tour buses were already heading in.
I hope everyone enjoys
the pics (just a few out of the hundreds I took haha) of these beautiful